Of Brazilian forest tribes and the South Indian rice balls!

“What shall I pack for your lunch today?” 

No matter who asked me this question  – mostly my dad, on some occasions my mother or any aunt or uncle who was visiting us – the answer was always the same – “koorannam” – (dry curry plus rice)! To this day,I love dry food and will eat the wet stuff – sambar rice and so on – only because i HAVE to! This distaste must have come out of innumerable occasions – weddings and suchlike – where I (unsuccessfully most of the time!) had to chase rasam saadam all over banana leaves! Most of the time it ended up on my lap and my neck and so on. This distaste does NOT run to curd rice(yogurt and rice) – also wet but dearly loved! It does to buttermilk and rice (majjigannam / moru saadam) – again a painful process of finishing your meal by licking off bits of your arm and wherever else it had run to! As kids, of course, we had many jokes about how elderly relatives would eat rasam and rice – by slurping it all the way up to their armpits – GROSS!

When Kanch was about 5 years old, she came back from school one evening and as we were eating dinner, she asked me, “Amma, what are bamiyans?” Explained to her that the words was ‘banyan’ and it was a type of tree. She looked puzzled – “I don’t think so, amma, i think they’re a kind of people”. Huh? What? So I asked her to tell me a little more about them thinking they were some esoteric Brazilian rainforest tribe she must have heard about in school – or something.

“They eat funnily” she says. 


“See, they make a ball with their food and throw the ball into their mouth like this” – demonstrating with a “mudda” (lump of rice and dal she had in her hand) and of course, missing the target and splattering it all over her shirt! 

I am completely at sea by now. Then Arch, thinking very hard, comes up with, “Amma, I think she’s talking about Brahmins”!!

Much hilarity ensues, along with a lecture on sociology! 

My favourite dry “rices” are the pre-mixed ones – pulihora, podi rice, aavakai rice, even appadam and rice with ghee! Featuring today a very simple and yummy 


  •  Cooked rice – 3 cups
  • Mint – pudhina leaves – washed – 1.5 cups
  • Boiled peas or corn – half cup (optional)
  • Onions sliced – 1/2 cup
  • Green chilies – 2
  • Red chili – 1
  • Garlic – 2 pods
  • Ginger – 1/2 ” piece
  • Cinnamon – 2 ” piece
  • Garam masala – 1/4 tsp (optional)
  • Juice of one lemon
  • Salt
  • Sugar – 1/2 tsp

To temper 

  • Mustard seeds – 1/2 tsp
  • Chana dal – 1 tsp
  • Urad dal – 1 tsp
  • Jeera – cumin seeds – 1/2 tsp
  • Curry leaves – 1 sprig
  • Oil or ghee – 1 tbsp
  • Asafoetida – hing – 1 large pinch

Heat the oil in a large pan. Add the mustard. When it pops, add the chana dal and fry for a few seconds. Add urad dal and jeera and fry for a few seconds more. Add curry leaves and asafoetida.

Grind mint, chilies, garlic, ginger, cinnamon to a smooth paste and add garam masala.

Add onions and fry till brown. Add mint paste and fry till it is quite thick and pasty – about 8-10 minutes. Add salt and lemon juice. sugar and rice and mix well till the grains of rice are well coated. Rest for ten minutes before serving with papad, a pickle and yogurt.

And by the way, I’ve solved the rasam and rice conundrum which has been eluding physicists and such others for decades – I now eat it ONLY out of a bowl!